We have so much stuff. More than enough stuff, and I am fairly certain that we can live without more for a long time. So, this year we aren’t going to buy any more. No clothes, shoes, accessories, home decor, sporting goods, kitchen gadgets, furniture, or anything else that can’t be used up completely. No cute little office supplies and jars that suck me in completely in the Target Dollar Spot every time. We’ll buy food and household items that are truly consumables like toothpaste and laundry detergent. It will be an experiment in creativity and an exercise in using what we own. Practicing abundance by living with our abundance, USING our abundance. And I am so excited.The idea of minimalism and living with less is not new to me. I’ve been working with a capsule wardrobe for over two years and really loving the way I appreciate my clothes, it’s easy to get dressed, and when I wear something out it’s actually been used up. Over the last couple years the ideas of slowing down, focusing on what is important, and removing the excess have become central to the way I try to make choices. Intentionally, deliberately, and thoughtfully bringing things into our lives.
Of course, I make lots of random, impulsive purchases as well, and hang on too long to some things that I don’t love. But what hit me the other day as I cleaned out my kitchen office cabinets, and went back and forth to the store to buy more baskets and bins to organize my stuff (the irony) was that I have so much that I don’t use. Things I’ve had for years and never pulled out. Cards unsent, pens uncapped, movies unwatched. We keep buying and layering without thoughtfully using the things we already own. More than enough stuff.
A couple days later we sat and watched The Minimalists on Netflix, and what really resonated with me was to use what you have. I think a lot of people think of minimizing by decluttering, organizing, and creating space in their homes and lives–which certainly feels like a big piece of the process to me, and something we do here at our home pretty often. But what usually happens after the purge?
Maybe a little binge to fill up that emptiness?
Getting rid of all that we don’t love to turn around and fill ourselves back up with new, shiny stuff that we do love…at least for awhile.
As I watched, and read, and read, and pondered, and remembered the feeling I get often when walk into stores filled to the brim with beautiful things that no one really, truly needs. That feeling of overwhelm combined with an unexplained twinge of sadness. And this quote that hit me so hard a couple years ago that it pops into my head weekly when I’m faced with choices of to add or not to add to our stuff: “There is no end to what the world has to offer, so it is critical that we learn to recognize when we have enough.” (source)
We have more than enough stuff.
I’m really excited to jump in and experiment with the idea that we already have everything that we’ll need for this year. It will stretch us to look through, organize, and be aware of everything we have, be creative with what we have, and also be patient for things that we might find we don’t have and also don’t need immediately. We’re starting with this idea and will continue to work out the details as situations arise.
I do know that I have a unique set of skills and materials that make this challenge feel not totally insane. For example, I know how to sew and have hundreds of yards of fabric, so as my kids need new clothes this year I can make them using what I have. More than enough stuff. Our garage is filled with bikes and coolers and camping gear, so we will be able to comfortably adventure as we love this year. More than enough stuff. I have piles of paints, craft supplies, scrap wood, even brick in the same color to match our house, so I will be able to continue doing projects and making things the way I love to. More than enough stuff.When we talked to the kids about this experiment and challenge, Eliot asked “So what if we want a new toy when we go to Target?” I asked him if he could think of anything we have at home we could use to make a toy. “We could make some little guys with that clay you have in your studio!” Yes, my sweet child, and that way we both get the toy and the experience of making it together and the value of that goes beyond a new little guy. More than enough stuff.
Of course there are certain challenges unique to our situation that we’ll face. Most obviously that I am a blogger and my work often is subsidized by companies who send me stuff to style, photograph, use, love and promote. It’s a fine line, promoting things I love without wanting to add to the pervasive idea that you always need more. I already have a couple really fun partnerships in the works for 2017, arranged beforehand, that I’ll carry out as planned. I really do love sharing favorite products that I sincerely use and love, and also don’t ever want people to feel that they need something they don’t. As far as future partnerships my idea is this: I’ll seek out collaborations that provide value beyond the products, and in the cases that I receive some cool stuff for a project I will give the stuff away. That includes all the piles of awesome swag from conference bags (that ends up in my kitchen cabinets never to be seen again.) I’m also excited to work with some more food companies this year, where the products are true consumables, and where we can find joy in making and eating, rather than simply accumulating. Other obstacles and solutions we have considered are that I run a handmade shop where I will need to continue buying materials to make my products. That intentional buying and making will remain separate from our home and family life, and be operated with the same thoughtfulness that we are bringing to daily life through his experiment. My shop intention is to add inspiration, adventure, and creativity into people’s lives, not just stuff. I feel like selling these handmade products at the same time as not buying anything this year is a compatible situation.
Another detail we’ve considered is when we use something up completely, we will weigh options for buying a replacement. For example, my kids already have capsule wardrobes, so they don’t have much excess clothing. Each has about four pairs of shoes, and when one has holes in the soles (like Eliot’s beloved cowboy boots that he wears almost daily) I’ll feel comfortable, thoughtful, and intentional about buying a replacement and throwing the used up pair out. I briefly considered trying to anticipate all of this ahead of time and sort of “prepare” for the year of without buying by buying a bunch of stuff I thought we might need or want. I quickly realized that idea totally negated the idea of using what we have, so we’ve decided to approach replacement on a case by case basis.
Lastly, we have a couple of home renovation projects we want to complete this year, and will operate on the idea that if it becomes part of the home (tile on the walls of the boys bathroom, cabinets in the laundry room) we will not count it as stuff, but as improvement and investment. Styling the redone bathroom with a shower curtain, towels, little hooks and toothbrush cups and a floor mat for sharing on the blog however, will need to be done completely with items we already own. Because, we have more than enough stuff.
And there it is. The challenge: not buy any stuff this year. The goal: become aware of what we already own, use our stuff more thoughtfully, stall the cycle of buying for buying sake, stretch our creative muscles as we make things work, save time, money, energy as we cultivate a culture of gratitude and abundance at home.
I’ll be sharing about the More than Enough Stuff journey here on the blog, along with other ideas about intentional living and over on instagram with the hashtag #morethanenoughstuff. Feel free to play along sharing when you resist adding something new to your life because you already have enough by using that hashtag as well.
Cheers to a year of abundance and gratitude.